He was born Harry Parr Davies in Briton Ferry, Neath, South Wales and was a musical prodigy, having composed whole operettas by the time he was in his teens. He came to the attention of composer Sir Walford Davies, who encouraged him to study at Oxford. At the age of fourteen he had already composed six songs, and left Wales to expand upon his juvenile success.
In 1931, in an uncharacteristic moment of assertiveness, he talked his way into the dressing room of the singing star Gracie Fields at London's Winter Garden theatre. From 1934, he worked as Fields' accompanist. He wrote songs for Jack Buchanan and Anna Neagle among others. His best-known songs included "Pedro the Fisherman", "Wish Me Luck as You Wave Me Goodbye" and "Sing as We Go".
In 1939 the show Black Velvet included Parr-Davies's song "Crash, Bang, I Want To Go Home". Other wartime shows which featured his work included Big Top, Happidrome (starring Tessie O'Shea), Full Swing, The Knight was Bold and The Lisbon Story. In the course of the war he was seconded from his regiment to join Gracie Fields in ENSA.
In 1944, his musical, Jenny Jones, which had a Welsh setting, was a flop, but it was followed by the successful revue Fine Feathers (1945), Her Excellency (1949) starring Cicely Courtneidge, and Dear Miss Phoebe (1950).
Parr-Davies was at the peak of his success when he died on 14 October 1955 from an internal haemorrhage caused by a perforated ulcer for which, according to his sister, Billie David, he had declined to seek medical attention. He died at his London home in Knightsbridge, but is buried beside his father and mother (whom he predeceased) in Oystermouth Cemetery near Swansea.
Songs by Parr-Davies used in George Formby films
- "Bell Bottom George" (Park/Parr-Davies)
- "If I Had a Girl Like You" (Park/Parr-Davies)
- "In My Little Snapshot Album" (Harper/Haines/Parr-Davies)
- "It's in the Air" (Parr-Davies)
- "Noughts and Crosses" (Hunter/Parr-Davies)
- "Swim Little Fish" (Park/Parr-Davies)
- "Your Way Is My Way" (Parr-Davies)
- Dr Rhidian Griffiths, Aberystwyth (2001). "Parr-Davies , Harry (formerly Davies , Harry Parr; 1914 - 1955), pianist and composer". National Library of Wales biography. The National Library of Wales (Dictionary of Welsh Biography). Retrieved 27 December 2016.
- Rex Walford, 'Harry Parr Davies', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004. [accessed 21 August 2011]
- "cantorjoeocho" (compiler). "[Obits] Harry Parr Davies". Obituaries -L Archives. RootsWeb community. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
- Andrew Everett MA (13 February 2015). Accompanying Gracie: The Life, Times and Music of Harry Parr Davies (1914-1955). AuthorHouse. ISBN 978-1-4969-9451-6.